by James C. Henderson

It’s been over a year since we occupied
the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza
in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
We called it, “The People’s Plaza”
and then populated it with liberated people day and night.
It’s empty now.
The brick cobblestones and granite benches are cold.
There’s no GA under the lights.
No smell of chicken casserole from the
Occupy Your Face Café.
No free library, no teach-ins, no more discussions.
No undercover cop at my elbow asking
“Who’s in charge here?”
Me replying, “We all are.”
The sheriff’s deputies, too, dressed in gold and brown
conspiratorially chatting or harvesting tents
pulling them up like radishes
at three in the morning, are gone—
done protecting this public space from the public.
Sometimes I come back here just to feel free.
I remember one night last fall talking
to a fellow Occupier about the portable
surveillance camera the police had set up—
its black glass eye peering down from its swan’s neck
on the medic bandaged in his blankets
and the homeless man swaddled in a sleeping bag.
This Occupier pointed to the skyscrapers surrounding us
and told me, “Hell, right now you’re being watched
by over 80 security cameras.”
“That many?” I said, and turned, arms spread
from the black and white US Bank Building
to the stolid face of the limestone Qwest tower
to the romanesque city hall with its green copper roof
to the parking ramp glowing orange in its bowels
just so they could see what a man unafraid looks like.
Now, the security cameras look down on ghosts.
The county commissioners first made it illegal
to pitch tents, to put up signs, to chalk the sidewalk
then to sleep under the stars.
“Mic check,” I yell. “Shame on you!”
My voice echoes across the plaza and fades.
Headlights continue to flow tic-tac-toe through the city.
A traffic signal turns yellow, then red, another green.
The light rail train squeals as it pulls into the open-air station
on Fifth Street, empty except for one man and one woman
not sitting together.
A single snowflake falls from the night sky
telling me we’ve only just begun.